Similar to the advancement of smartphones and tablets, wearable technology has been favored by early adopters and is now ready to expand its horizons as a leader of the consumer electronics market. Coupled with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm and enabling technologies (e.g., Augmented Reality (AR), Cyber-Physical Systems, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain or edge computing), smart wearables and IoT-based garments can have a lot of influence on customers and their delight created by fashion. Infact the mingling of textile and electronics is enabling the seamless and massive integration of sensors into textiles and the development of conductive yarn. The communication of smart fabrics with smartphones to process biometric information such as heart rate, temperature, breathing, stress, movement, or even hormone levels, promises a new era for trade.
Accessory wearables They are low-power devices that are adapted to the human body in order to be worn as accessories like smartwatches, smart glasses or fitness trackers.
Textile/Fabric wearables They implant electronics into textiles through flexible fabrics.
Patchable wearables They are skin-patchable devices that are flexible and very thin.
Implantable wearables They are lightweight self-powered wearables that are implanted into the human body without any health concerns.
Near-body wearables They are purposely designed to be located near the body, but they do not need to contact it directly.
On-body wearables They are located on the body, in direct contact with the skin.
In-body wearables They are implanted inside the body.
Electronic textiles They make use of fabric or textile-based electronics and components
In this article, we are specifically focussing on the applications and usage of textile/fabric wearables and what the future holds for this industry.
Top 10 Players
The above chart shows the total number of Smart Clothing Technology patents assigned to top market players. With 1317 patents, Qualcomm is the top player in the smart clothing industry. Beijing Didi Infinity Technology and Development follows not so closely behind with 428 patents. Samsung Electronics, Donghua University, Elwha, Guangdong Xiatiancai Technology and Silveray are almost at equivalence.
Top 10 Countries
The above chart shows the top 10 patent jurisdictions with China dominating the rest with 3334 patents in the Smart Clothing industry followed by the US with 2671 patents. Smart Clothing has not just been a style statement but has benefited these markets in terms of technology advancement. Besides these, Korea, India, Taiwan and Japan are almost on the same level with 866, 690, 575 and 561 patents.
The entire smart clothing industry is likely to grow from USD 1.6 billion in 2019 to USD 5.3 billion by 2024 with a CAGR of 26.2%. Growing awareness about the importance for sports & fitness is expected to provide substantial growth opportunities to players in this market.
Active smart textile holds the largest share of the smart clothing market. They have the ability to sense and react to the stimuli.
The growth prospects in the market are created with the fast increasing demand of upper wear including smart shirts, jackets and vests. Data is captured in real-time and is sent to all the companion apps, providing insights on a range of sporty metrics, including intensity and recovery, calories burned, fatigue level, and sleep quality.
Military & defense applications of the market are predicted to expand at 55% during the forecast period. To develop technologically advanced military uniforms, plenty of government bodies are investing heavily to get a clear picture about the health of a soldier. Data identifying potential battlefield injuries such as impact of bullets, explosions are extracted through the numerous sensors placed on the uniform across various body locations. These advanced uniforms are used to identify the fitness of the soldiers, detect wounds & injuries and analyze the results of military engagements.
The industry is forecast to witness intensive competition owing to the increasing rate of new entrants. In addition, various technology companies are focusing on diversifying their services by building partnerships with clothing firms.
As a result of the strong judgment and intelligence, seamless connectivity and ever-increasing usability, wearables offer opportunities for activity and condition monitoring, decision-support, actuation, location applications, identification, personal contextual notifications, event detection, information (video/image/audio) display and virtual assistance. The majority of the commercial initiatives related to wearables and smart clothing cannot be considered IoT-enabled and none of them uses a blockchain or any other Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to receive, validate, store and share the collected data with the objective of avoiding untrusted sources.
Products in the Market
AIO Smart Sleeve - Komodo Technologies launched this compression sleeve that uses electrocardiogram (ECG) technology to monitor the heart rate, sleep pattern and workout intensity. Its module has sensors that monitor body temperature, air quality and UV rays.
Nadi X - These smart yoga pants create vibrations in the body and can sense when the yoga pose requires refining. Nadi x has its exclusive application “Nadi x iOS” which optimizes each pose and curates personal yoga class.
Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery - This Under Armour’s clothing line absorbs heat from the human body and reflects the heat back to the wearer’s skin as far-infrared light. Especially useful to athletes as the infrared light enhances muscle recovery and relaxation.
Sensoria Fitness Socks - These fitness socks use advanced textile sensors built into each sock, plus a connected anklet device to deliver accurate data on how the foot lands while walking or running. It’s exclusive app provides tips to improve walking and running, tracks steps, speed, altitude, distance covered etc.
Neviano Swimsuits - France's invention is stylish, and combined with a UV sensor. The size of the sensor is half the size of the thumb, waterproof and connects to wearer’s iOS and Android devices. It sends alerts when the UV levels are high.
Samsung NFC Suit - Samsung’s smart clothing has shown off its body compass workout shirt, which monitors biometric data and a golf shirt in collaboration with Bean Pole Golf that includes weather and UV monitoring.
Neopenda Smart Baby Hat - Nependa’s vital signs monitor is inserted into newborn babies’ hats. Up to 24 baby hats can be wirelessly synced, via Bluetooth, to one tablet which will run custom software. The idea is that doctors and nurses can check up on the vital signs of the whole room at a glance and get alerts if any changes in temperature or heart rate, say, are cause for concern.
Google Jacquard, the world’s leading technology company is at the forefront of smart-textile technology, with its ambitious and long-awaited smart clothing platform, Jacquard. The jacquard platform is based on a project that was launched over a decade ago, with an aim to create smart fabrics that could replace screens as the interfacing modality of choice. Google partnered with Levi’s to launch the first generation of Jacquard-enabled jackets a couple of years ago. The jacket could, among other things, enable us to answer phone calls without reaching for the phone.
Between sensors becoming dirt cheap, cutting-edge IoT technologies emerging and data access exploding, an IoT-enabled world of connected things is very much a throbbing truth around us. It was then well thought out that wearable technology was acclaimed to be the next billion-dollar industry. After all, people wear clothes all the time.
However, in spite of slow progress, the fashion industry persisted with the idea of smart textiles. Although they hadn’t yet nailed the winning formula, there was widespread consensus that smart clothes had real potential to be something big. The smart clothing market today is starting to witness some products that offer true value to the customer. The most noteworthy thing here is that smart fabric technology has crossed the point of no return. Manufacturers have started experimenting with Sensor-enabled apparel in all sorts of solutions which are no longer mere marketing ploys.
Tanisha is a Technical Content Writer at Copperpod IP. She has a Master's degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics specialising in Policy Making and Industrial Economics. Tanisha has worked before as a Content Strategist at an Event Management Company and a Non-Profit Organisation. She takes a keen interest in Sensor Networks, IoT, Wearables, Life sciences and Virtual Reality.